The Angry Cyclist

A fleeting grasp of civil, well reasoned discourse.
This blog will comment on topics of interest like politics, business, taxation, the War with Islam / Islamofascists, road cycling, football, and others.


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Wednesday, April 30, 2003
 
Shannon O'Brien Update

You remember the lady who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Mitt Romney a few months ago, right? It seems the electorate had reasonable suspicion because she sucked at her previous job, too.

Former state Treasurer Shannon P. O'Brien overpaid $2 million worth of interest, left property storage rooms in shambles, and failed to conduct a single internal audit during her four-year tenure, according to a new transition review by state Auditor Joseph DeNucci.


DeNucci's as tough as nails, spares no one in his audits and is a former boxer to boot. He doesn't back down from anybody.

``If you look at the Treasury at the point Treasurer Cahill took it over, there are obviously still a lot of problems there,'' said DeNucci spokesman Glenn Briere. ``The purpose of this report is to give him a road map to determine what needs to be done.''


"..and to sink any Shannon O'Brien comeback."

Blasting O'Brien for ``inadequate'' accounting controls, the audit zeroed in on the ``nonexistent'' internal audits - a policy announced with fanfare after the embezzlement scandal under former Treasurer Joseph Malone.


Guess I'll call those 'nonexistent' accounting controls, then.

O'Brien denied the charge and insisted her office had done ``a number'' of internal audits - but was unable to provide documentation. ``As in the past, there are some inaccuracies in this particular audit,'' O'Brien said. ``I'm only disappointed that we didn't have an opportunity to review the audit and correct the inaccuracies.''


"I know these audit files are here somewhere..."

Cahill backed up DeNucci's assessment, and said he fired the Treasury's internal auditor, Richard Mee, last Friday.


The last of the O'Brien crew...

``We had our suspicions,'' Cahill said. ``We just felt it was better to pull the trigger now rather than wait for the audit to come out.''


"Because we're into mercy killings."

The audit also hit O'Brien for paying a 5 percent interest rate on abandoned savings accounts, when the law allows the state to pay the lesser rates that were in effect when the accounts were abandoned - a glitch DeNucci estimates cost the state an extra $2 million. Asked about the excess interest payments, O'Brien said, ``I don't know if I can answer that question.''


"...without lying."

Cahill said he's already changed the interest policy, and that the Treasury will pay lower rates in the future. The audit also includes photos that show boxes of abandoned property piled haphazardly around a storage room - side by side with a nearly identical photo from Malone's tenure.


So much for that 'reformer' platform.

``We had stuff everywhere,'' said Cahill, who moved the property to a secure facility in Chelsea. ``It was actually not in a very controlled environment.''

O'Brien aides disputed the accuracy of the photo and said they kept abandoned property in locked cabinets in an alarmed room in a different Treasury office. O'Brien, an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor, frequently clashed with DeNucci when she was in office.


And one more time afterwards. She lost again.


 
Just Blame Bush

Unsurprisingly, Bob Kuttner finds something else to blame on Bush. I don't even know why I bother fisking this loser anymore.

Bush's role in state fiscal crises

By Robert Kuttner, 4/30/2003

THE STATES ARE facing their worst budget crisis since the Great Depression. They face a collective deficit of about $100 billion during the coming months, a gap that must be closed by cuts in public services, hikes in taxes, or both. Two things are remarkable about this crisis. First, the national government, which is substantially implicated, is getting away almost scot-free. The fallout is hitting mainly governors, mayors, and state legislators, while the cuts are hitting citizens. Washington is AWOL.


That's interesting, Bob. Even the hyper-liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is projecting $70 to 85 billion in deficits. But if a little Herold math helps you make your point...

Second, the cause of the state fiscal crisis is widely misunderstood. To read the conservative press, you would think that states had gone on a spending spree in the 1990s. One of Bush's close allies, conservative political strategist Grover Norquist, has positively gloated about the states' plight. ''I hope a state goes bankrupt,'' he told The New York Times, suggesting an object lesson to other states to rein in their big-spending ways.


Well, Bob, when you spend and spend and spend more than you receive in taxes, that's how you wind up with deficits. Can you tell me how this is president Bush's problem?

This conservative claim is poppycock balderdash malarkey. During the 1990s, state spending adjusted for inflation and population was basically flat. The slight net state spending increase over a decade -- from 8.0 percent to 8.4 percent of personal income -- was more than accounted for by net cuts in federal aid and state increases in Medicaid costs. Other net outlay declined.


A statistical sleigh of hand's being used here - 'state spending adjusted for inflation and population was basically flat'. What happens when you apply the same test to tax revenues, Bob? A noticeable decrease, perhaps?

States didn't increase Medicaid services. Rather, Medicaid costs went through the roof. Medicaid pays for nursing home care, and the population is aging. Medicaid underwrites basic health care for the poor at a time when low-wage jobs don't provide health coverage. Medicaid costs have increased by about 50 percent since 1997 alone.


These are part of the 'unfunded mandates' argument, where Washington passes on the costs of certain programs to the states by not paying directly for them. This is a phenomena that occurs whenever a Republican administration assumes office during hard economic times.

The other two causes of the state fiscal crisis are the current economic downturn and the foolish decisions promoted by conservative politicians during the boom years to legislate permanent cuts in state taxes.


Yup, states were surely hurting for revenue, weren't they?

If, like Grover Norquist and George W. Bush, you want to plunder public services, starving government is clever policy. But if you want states and cities to deliver the usual services that voters want, it is not smart to shred the tax base. However, between 1996 and 2001, states legislated permanent cuts in their tax codes of some $40 billion a year.


And Washington somehow caused this? Hey, Bob, who was president during most of that stretch?

The states, unlike the federal government, cannot print money. Every state but one (the exception is Vermont) is constitutionally prohibited from borrowing to cover current deficits. So recessions mean cuts in services -- just when demands for services increase.


That's funny, Bob, but I thought that recessions were caused by a decrease in economic output, which happens in part when demand for goods and services decreases. I though this guy was an economist!

In past state fiscal crises Washington has helped in a variety of ways -- with emergency revenue sharing, extended unemployment benefits, public works projects, and increased aid to specific sectors such as education and health. This time, Washington -- which is to say George W. Bush -- has made things worse for the states in several respects.


Bob still clings to thoroughly discredited Keynesian 'pump-priming' economic theory that deficits can be avoided if the Federal government just ratchets up the spending.

For starters, the president is cutting federal domestic spending, much of which goes through the states. Most governors are begging Washington for additional aid, but the Bush administration would rather use federal resources for more tax cuts.


The Bush tax cuts of 2001, as small as they were in addition to diverting needed federal revenue, cost the states some $10 billion a year in lost state tax receipts because of the linkage of state and federal tax systems. (Some states have acted to delink their tax system from the federal one; that will stanch this particular revenue hemorrhage but complicate tax filings.)


This sounds like bullshit to me, because having these systems linked means that if the Feds audit someone's tax return, the state automatically gets a copy of that audit, so I'm hard pressed to see how Bob views this as 'losing revenue', an argument which also highlights his (and other's conceits) that your money belongs to Washington first.

Further, the Bush administration has imposed extensive new costs on states without providing the funds


Like the Medicaid services Bob discusses, which were enacted in 1965...

The most burdensome of these is Bush's mistitled No Child Left Behind Act, which imposes new standards on the states and mandates higher test scores as a condition of federal education aid but actually cuts by several billion dollars the funds needed to upgrade teaching.


Yup, just throw more money at the problem...

For years, conservative Republicans railed against ''unfunded mandates'' -- costs imposed on states and localities by Washington absent the money to carry them out. George W. Bush, oddly, is emerging as the king of unfunded mandates.


Maybe we can agree that unfunded mandates aren't a good thing? Or is this only during Bush's term?

One can also fault Bush's failure to address the structural crisis of the health system, which is the larger cause of the Medicaid budget disaster.


And Medicare and Social Security...

The man leads a charmed life. He sits in Washington, crowing about the benefits of his tax and spending cuts as if states were part of another planet. Meanwhile, governors, legislators, mayors, and local officials joust with one another over brutal choices that shouldn't have to be made -- shall we reduce child care or cut aid to the mentally ill? Gut what's left of housing assistance or close schools?


At last, we get down to the real reason for Bob's animus towards Bush - jealousy. How else to interpret the 'charmed life' quip? And like the other Globe sage, not once will Bob ever rationally consider spending cuts as a way to balance state budgets other than as a tool for which to mock this loathsome, cold-hearted president.

The Bush administration bears the responsibility for much of this, and George W. Bush needs to be held accountable.


Ever hear of elections, Bob?

Robert Kuttner's is co-editor of The American Prospect. His column appears regularly in the Globe.

This story ran on page A23 of the Boston Globe on 4/30/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


 
Cat Blogging

This is something I'd expect my cat Angus to get mixed up in. Glad the traveling cat's doing fine.


 
Merckx Disses Armstrong

If there's one guy that can talk smack about Lance Armstrong, it's the Cannibal, Eddy Merckx. With that said, I take exception to some of his comments for the following reasons:

Merckx took particular offence at Armstrong’s chasing down of his son, Axel Merckx (Lotto-Domo), who had escaped from the peloton just before the climb of La Redoute with around 40 kilometres to go of the race.

"I wasn’t very pleased at all," Merckx senior told Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure. "I know all the things Axel has done for him. But I’m sure that Axel won’t hesitate in paying him back when the chance presents itself."


Axel won't, but Eddy, how many times have you pulled the same stunt? You've won one third of all your races and you've never 'screwed' someone over like that, or worse?

Axel, though, didn’t appear to harbour the same malice towards Armstrong, although it seemed that he shared his father’s view that the road is the best place to get your own back. "It doesn’t really bother me that my friend Lance chased me down," Axel said to L’Equipe. "We’re very close, but we don’t ride for the same team. There’s no friendship in racing, and there’s no reason why he should have let me go." (emphasis added)


Eddy knows this, he's just pissed that his son was involved / dropped.

But Eddy was not prepared to let Armstrong get away with what he thought was "bad riding", and told L’Equipe so. "Axel knows Armstrong very well. He’s a special guy. But it wasn’t for nothing that Hamilton left US Postal two years ago…"


That's a red herring. Hamilton's sufficiently talented to be GC material in the big races. Eddy knows that this creates division amongst teams (look at Lemond / Hinault, circa 1985 - 1986 to get the picture). Eddy's probably been wanting to use that line for about two years now...

The older Merckx went on to criticise the way Armstrong had talked up his chances of winning Liège, but then had not been able to perform when it came to the final stages. And there was criticism, too, for the Armstrong camp: "I think that he’s surrounded by people who tell him he’s fantastic, a big shot – that he can say and do whatever he wants. And it’s even more dangerous that he believes it. But he’s American, and it’s in his mentality to believe it."


Four Tour wins aren't enough? Just wait a few months...

A case of sour grapes as Armstrong threatens to leapfrog Merckx – winning the Tour will mean that the American joins Miguel Indurain with five straight victories - or the voice of experience sending out a warning that no matter who you are, you can always become too big for your boots?


Very sour grapes, rotting on the Belgian vines.


 
I Can't Wait

If Lyndon Larouche is invited to this debate, it will make it the complete circus I'm predicting.


 
The Apple

Does not fall far from the tree.


Tuesday, April 29, 2003
 
Darwin Award Nominee

Headline: Man dies after drilling head

A man has died after attempting to drill a hole in his head with a power tool.


Trying to let the voices out, one can only conjecture.


 
Two Years, And They Hate Each Other Already

The bloom is finally off the rose in the Schumer / Clinton senatorial relationship.

“Schumer’s staff are ugly about Hillary. They have nothing nice to say about her,” the source said. The insider said Schumer’s staff regularly refer to Hillary in the most unflattering of terms and believe she has wrongly taken credit for constituent work Schumer accomplished – and she has consistently sought to upstage him at public events.

Hillary and her staff share similar animus toward Schumer. Brill revealed to NewsMax that in off-the-record conversations he had with Hillary and her key aides, they openly “denigrated” Schumer.


I really love this part:

In his own report Novak adds, "The failure of any Democratic presidential hopeful to break away from the pack has increased 2004 Hillary-for-president talk in Democratic circles."


Nice shot across Senator Skinflint's bow, isn't it?

And she's just warming up, ladies and gentlemen (and Boston Globe editors). This is one power-hungry woman. Cross her at your own peril, and don't expect political favors to be repaid, ever.


Monday, April 28, 2003
 
Happy Birthday, Saddam!

The old goat turned sixty-six today, if he's not already under a couple of tons of rocks & other heavy crap. I mean, who ya gonna believe?


 
Hypocrite Watch

Ever wonder about certain antiwar celebrities who insist on referring to people in the Bush Administration, and of course the president himself as idiots and morons, can now compare their records.

I'm intrigued by this entry:

Alec Baldwin: Dropped out of George Washington University after scandal. Career: Acting


Scandal? Time for some research.

UPDATE - Alec went to GWU for three years, transferred to NYU to study drama, getting his degree in 1993. No mention yet on a 'scandal', though. It's not tough to verify the basic info. Maybe the above link undercut a few other Hollywood credentials, no?

ANOTHER UPDATE - I just stumbled across the Snopes take on this. I agree with them that the alleged Baldwin 'scandal' isn't readily verifiable (having looked all of ten minutes), and they got Garofalo's info wrong, but they don't label the article as a whole an 'urban legend'.

The quote of the day applies here: "That's what I like about grenades. As long as you're close, you'll do some damage."


 
Tyler Hamilton Update

He wins his first race of the year at the Liège-Bastogne-Liège, one of the many Spring Classics, and the oldest one as well.

This has led the editors of the procycling gang to ponder some possibilities:

So could Armstrong really be beaten in July? Certainly it’s a tall order, especially as the Texan has looked as strong, if not stronger, than in previous seasons leading up to July. With second place at the Amstel Gold Race the previous weekend, and then such an attacking ride at Liège, it’s going to take someone very special to beat him.


I think US Postal is still a stronger overall team than CSC, which helps a lot. Tyler also crashed something like five times in last year's Giro, so he went in to last year's Tour in rough shape. Tyler will do better this time around, but I don't think Lance loses this year.

It would certainly be a shock if anyone was able to prevent Armstrong taking a fifth straight Tour victory, but wouldn’t it be great to see two Americans battling it out for supremacy this July?


I'm sorry, but I disagree. It would be great to see three Americans battling it out for supremacy this July. Think of the common bond of cycling that will endear us to our French counterparts!


 
What He Said

Ken Layne on irony (or a reporter and his former blog):

Are Tribune Co. monopoly newspapers so scared of their pathetic little lockdowns that they'll unleash this kind of P.R. hell upon themselves just to keep a reporter from updating a personal, advertising-free, not-for-profit Web site?


...

Incredible, isn't it? The guy writes with some confidence about blogs having the power to overturn dictators. He lives in a country with the most fantastic free-speech protections in the world. And a chickenshit tyrant from a small-town newspaper tells him to shut up or lose his job.

It's rotten but hardly unexpected when Iranian bloggers get shut down by the nervous old bastards. It's repulsive but utterly normal when Castro starts another wave of executing journalists. At least we can look at the calendar and say with some confidence that those regimes will fall, and soon.

In America, the tyrant is the little man presiding over a roomful of employees ruled by Fear. He is the hate-filled middle manager, the brown-nose, the squealer, and especially the corporate mid-sized newspaper editor. Like the squirrel, he is a lifelong fraud, gladhanding the Chamber of Commerce boys and Board of Realtors while occasionally shitting out bogus pronouncements about journalistic integrity and Free Speech and that Pulitzer he bought a dozen years ago. His time is nearly up, too.


And not a moment too soon...


 
Cycling Accident in NH

I tend not to want to report such incidents, but I know that particular stretch of road pretty well where the cyclist was killed yesterday. It's a few miles from the base of Mount Ascutney. That stretch of road is pretty wide and it's usually clean (as in swept), and it has a three foot road shoulder. This is why it struck me as odd; it's the last place a car - cyclist collision ought to happen between Claremont and Ascutney. The accident happened at 8:00 (sunset was around 7:38), which is why I don't ride at night, and don't recommend it. If you do, get a set of lights and use them.

Fortunately, they caught the bastard that hit him.


 
Kerry Attacks Dean's Patriotism

Well, that's how Kerry spun things a few weeks ago when the shoe was on the other foot. I'm expecting the above statement any minute now from Dean's campaign headquarters.

Kerry spokesman Chris Lehane issued a statement expressing incredulity over Dean's remarks and saying that Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, would "guarantee that America has the strongest, best trained, most well-equipped military in history."


Point and counterpoint ensue from then on between the camps. From Kausfiles (sorry, no permalinks there) comes this link with the angle that Dean could beat (knock off) both Kerry in New Hampshire and Gephardt in Iowa, then croak in the South like liberals tend to do. Advantage: Lieberman & Edwards.

I've noted that Kerry is also known as Senator Skinflint in these parts. Now he can claim it's part of his heritage.

New Englanders are among the least-generous people in the nation when it comes to the amount of discretionary income they donate to charity, a new study finds.
...

The eight least-generous large counties are all in New England. Rockingham County, N.H., is at the bottom of the survey with 3.7 percent of its residents' discretionary income given to charity. Hartford, Conn., was the least-generous metropolitan area in the nation, with 4.7 percent of discretionary income given to charities.

The Providence-Fall River-Warwick, R.I., area was second-cheapest at 5.1 percent, with the Boston-Worcester-Lawrence, Mass., area third at 5.2 percent, the survey found.


UPDATE - Jay Fitzgerald points out the obvious:

"and who (Kerry), not surprisingly, is having it both ways by going after both Bush and Dean."


 
No Surprise Here

From the title: Investors get little in states' settlement with Wall St.

Summary: Of the 1.4 billion in fines collected from various Wall Street brokerage firms, about 30% is returned to state governments, and most will go back into their general funds, leaving the 'aggrieved investor' getting little of it (read: none). Here's the problem:

The Securities and Exchange Commission will also receive $437 million in the final settlement, which is expected to be unveiled in Washington. The SEC will turn over its proceeds to its so-called Fair Fund, a vehicle created last year to return penalty money to investors.


That's also 30% of the total settlement. Because the SEC isn't interested or able to determine / define who is an investor that should receive restitution, I think this whole premise is bullshit. If someone had a legitimate claim against a firm for churning or some other egregious abuse, a claim would have been filed already. If you're going to fine a company, just say so. If you're going to accept settlement money for returning to investors, the SEC will have to do a lot better than that.

Hey, I lost some money in the market...


 
Begala Award Nominee

One of Andrew Sullivan's favorite award categories (for excessive liberal rhetoric) gets a 2003 nomination, done by the master himself. Now that the 'Bush = Hitler' and 'Bush = Saddam' themes have been taken,

"Everybody who supports Bush kind of knows in their bones that he is kind of our Kim Jong-Il," the bitter-sounding Clintonista told radio host Don Imus. "[He's] sort of the befuddled ne'er-do-well son of a former leader. We know he's not quite up to the job, so we overreact."


He still holds that 2000 grudge, too:

Earlier in the interview, Begala revisited the 2000 Florida election controversy, renewing the shopworn complaint, "They stole the election!"





Friday, April 25, 2003
 
Ahhh... Glory Days

Bill Simmons, AKA ESPN's The Sports Guy, pays tribute to Larry Bird, AKA Basketball Jesus.


 
Filling In for Derrick Z. Jackson...

Is another member of the Liberal Mafia (a phrase used by former Globe columnist David Nyhan to elevate the columnists' stature somehow).

Far right greases skids for GOP fall


The mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, Neanderthal right, in case there's any doubt...

By Robert Kuttner, 4/25/2003

JUST WHEN Democrats were feeling stymied by the (short-term) triumph of the Bush Iraq strategy, some self-inflicted wounds have been opened in the coalition. Each, in its own way, reflects the hubris of the far right that dominates this administration. If Bush II goes the way of Bush I, he will have been done in by the excesses of his own camp.


It could also express confidence in the president's leadership abilities and their ability to sell their agenda, but let's see where this alleged conceit takes us.

On the war front, Colin Powell has been playing the role of benign diplomat, putting a reasonable face on a policy that he abhors.


After Powell got stabbed in the back by the French and Russians at the United Nations last month, I seriously doubt this is reality.

But this isn't enough for the ultras. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and company evidently want total victory, over the State Department as well as Saddam.


A fine diplomatic performance was turned in with Turkey a few months ago, wasn't it? Powell didn't even bother to travel over there, and we expected the Turks to take us seriously?

Rumsfeld, a close ally of the disgraced Newt Gingrich (who serves at Rumsfeld's pleasure on the Defense Policy Board) unleashed the former speaker to give a startlingly undiplomatic anti-Powell diatribe at the American Enterprise Institute, the citadel neo-conservative ideology.


That's because Gingrich isn't a diplomat, Bob. Some feel that this is an opportunity for Gingrich to rehabilitate himself in the public eye, like Nixon did years ago. It's to be expected to get half-rabid criticisms from the 'ultra' left.

Gingrich attacked Powell's efforts to enlist Syria's diplomatic cooperation as ''ludicrous,'' even though they have the explicit approval of the president and Condi Rice, the national security adviser. He characterized Powell's State Department as a ''broken instrument of diplomacy.''


Bob is ignoring the obvious employ of the 'good cop / bad cop' routine, which has worked extremely well with this administration. Now Rummy's letting Newt take a few whacks at the piñata.

Insiders say it is inconceivable that Gingrich could have given such a speech without Rumsfeld's knowledge if not his active connivance. The White House, through press spokesman Ari Fleisher, responded with faint praise, terming Powell an ''able, able diplomat.''


Then there was a reason for it. It's now common knowledge that the interests of the State Department aren't always the same as our national interests. I doubt Bob can explain why, given the above, why the State Department deserves to be exempt from criticism.

Powell is in an awkward spot. Thus far, he has been determined to stay, to rise above the attacks and continue the infighting, using his influence to make a dangerous foreign policy slightly less awful.


Yes, we have a dangerous foreign policy. If you're Syria, Iran, North Korea or Saudi Arabia, it's very dangerous indeed.

Though the neo-cons may not appreciate him, Powell has been immensely useful to them. By pressing the administration to go initially through the UN, Powell gave Prime Minister Tony Blair the necessary fig leaf for British participation in the war. The ''coalition'' with the Brits in turn made the US seem less unilateralist when Bush simply ignored the UN and invaded Iraq. Powell has also limited the diplomatic damage done by the Pentagon's bullying.


Wrong again, Bob. Bush was determined to go through the UN for the seventeenth first UN resolution (1441). Powell came along for the ride.

It would serve Rumsfeld and company right if they succeeded in forcing Powell out, which would further reveal the administration's plain radicalism.


But Bob, I thought you just said "Though the neo-cons may not appreciate him, Powell has been immensely useful to them"? Why wouldn't Rumsfeld, et. al., want to keep him around, then?

On the domestic front, Bush and his far-right allies are making a similar blunder, alienating the liberal fiscally responsible wing of the GOP with an aggressive campaign for more tax cuts for the very rich. The tax-cut lobby, reportedly with White House blessing, has been vilifying moderate GOP senators who drew the line at a still excessive cut of $350 billion. The lobby, which in typical Orwellian fashion calls itself the Club for Growth, is also threatening primary challenges to liberal moderate House Republicans who voted against the full tax cuts.


Because, Bob, this administration and its supporters cling to a quaint notion - that their money belongs to them, not to the Federal government. Since my take home pay increased last month, Bob must be talking about me when he mentions the 'very rich', as though this is prima facie evidence why a tax cut should never, EVER be passed.

Doesn't anyone remember Jim Jeffords, the Vermont Republican senator who quit the GOP over the right's highhandedness, causing Bush to lose his Senate majority in 2001? At this rate, Maine's Olympia Snowe, Ohio's George Voinovich, and Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee could be driven out, too.


That's because Benedict Jeffords is a political opportunist who thought he could get a better deal from the DemocRATS than by sticking with the GOP.

The one thing that should unite all Republicans is an inclination to low tax rates and, supposedly, a limited government. All the aforementioned 'Republicans' apparently do not share these beliefs and are Republicans in name only. Let them defect or resign as a matter of principle.

And, in case an internal squabble over tax cuts isn't sufficient, we have the case of the gay-bashing Pennsylvania Republican senator. Senator Rick Santorum, a close ally of the religious right, said the other day that if the Supreme Court overturned a Texas law that allows gays to be arrested for consensual sex in the privacy of their homes, it would encourage bigamy, incest, and adultery.


Gee, couldn't see this one coming, could we? To the degree that anyone can make sense of the speech, it's pretty easy to interpret many things from that stupid diatribe. Tell you what, Bob - you get rid of your extremists, and we'll get rid of ours, OK?

A gay Republican group, the ironically named Republican Unity Coalition, has demanded, but not gotten, an apology. (Given this administration's policies on gay rights, would somebody remind me why any sane gay person votes Republican?)


Why don't you ask this guy? Or is he not sane in your book, Bob?

In the decade since Bill Clinton took office, broad tolerance of homosexuality has gone from an issue that divided Democrats to one that embarrasses Republicans. But, if you hear directly from God that homosexuality is a sin, why would you apologize?


Tolerating something is not the same as complete agreement with it. The fact that gay radicals have a strong foothold in the Democratic party and take offense at every slight, perceived or real, actually give Republicans a chance to engage in dialogue with less militant gay groups. It's this latter fact that sheds light to Bob's lie that engagement 'embarrasses Republicans'.

What all these episoides (sic) have in common is overweening arrogance - the pride that goeth before a fall (The radicals around Bush must have missed that part of the Good Book.) This is the occupational hazard of governing without checks and balances.


Take some meds, Bob. Since there's still a court system and a Congress, the Bush administration has yet to install its version of the conservative caliphate. Nothing like using overblown hyperbole to make a bogus point.

To win elections, you need swing voters. The hard-core, partisan Republican vote is around 40 percent of the electorate; and the government-bashing, Bible-thumping, nuke-'em far-right electorate is substantially less than that.


Filling in admirably for Derrick Z. Jackson, aren't we? Shall I nominate you for a Begala Award?

In the past, moderate Republicans saved this radical administration from itself - on tax and budget issues, on military adventures, and on tolerance issues. Now, the radicals want nothing less than total victory. They are inviting electoral defeat.


This, from a group of political adherents that offer us John "Regime Change" Kerry as their standard bearer. And we're the radicals?

Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect. His column appears regularly in the Globe.

This story ran on page A14 of the Boston Globe on 4/25/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


 
Corrupt Teamsters Boss

Right here in Boston, too (edited for length).

BOSTON -- Local Teamsters head George Cashman pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy charges in a deal struck with prosecutors on the eve of his embezzlement trial.

Cashman, president of Local 25, pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy in two separate schemes -- one in which he and others were accused of extorting $100,000 from a health care company and another in which timesheets were falsified to allow 19 truck drivers to illegally collect more than $72,000 in health care benefits.

As part of the plea, Cashman admitted accepting $20,000 of the $100,000 extorted from Cardinal Health.


Who got the $80K left over, I wonder?

Surrounded by about a dozen thugs goons legbreakers supporters from the Teamsters, Cashman, 54, spoke briefly with reporters after the hearing. He said he was grateful for his 36 years with the Teamsters and the opportunity improve the lives of many through better work benefits.


"...and the failed attempt to vastly improve my own life."

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Cashman faces a possible prison term of between 30 and 37 months, while Carnes faces six to 12 months, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors have agreed to ask for a sentence in the middle of the guideline range.


Slap on the wrist. They'll probably draw the Danbury, CT halfway house federal prison, too, where Boesky did his time (why do I remember these things?).

One of the drivers who collected benefits was John "Mick" Murray, an admitted associate of fugitive gangster James "Whitey" Bulger.


Now I can make an educated guess where part of that $80K went...

Cashman's defense was dealt a blow last week when one of his associates, Thomas DiSilva, cut a deal with prosecutors and agreed to testify against Cashman.

DiSilva, a trucking company owner, pleaded guilty to two charges in the scheme to embezzle from the union's benefit plan by fabricating work hours. He also said that he and Cashman had extorted $100,000 from Cardinal Health and that Cashman kept some of the money. Both were indicted in that case last month.

Cashman, a former truck driver who gave tons of money to with close ties to former Govs. William Weld and Paul Cellucci, has been the union head since 1992. He also held a seat on the Massachusetts Port Authority board until May, when he was pressured to resign after he was indicted.

The indictment was brought by a Worcester grand jury probing allegations that members of Local 25 extorted Hollywood filmmakers, including producers of "The Perfect Storm" and "The Cider House Rules" during filming in New England.


(tap,tap,tap) Sorry. My surprise meter's busted...

Film directors complained that the union -- which represents about 9,000 members in trucking, warehousing and other businesses in the Boston area -- forced them to hire unnecessary workers and rent equipment from its members.


"Or there might be an unfortunate 'work accident'."

Local 25 handles all negotiations with studios and independent filmmakers who want to shoot movies in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The grand jury probe is continuing.


These guys get around, don't they?


Thursday, April 24, 2003
 
Hub Blog Gets Results!

Well,not exactly, but Jay Fitzgerald relays the Christian Science Monitor report that George Galloway has received millions, not just mere 'hundreds of thousands' as reported over the past two days. This is expolsive stuff.


 
Dumbass

Absent-minded bank robber overpowered after losing keys

A bank robber on the Greek island of Rhodes was overpowered by the bank's customers and staff when he returned to the scene of the crime to look for keys which he had left behind, the Greek media reported.

The 41-year-old man had walked out of the bank with around 15,000 euros which he forced a cashier to hand over at gunpoint.

But seconds later, he went back to look for the ignition keys to his hired getaway motorbike.

Bank staff, who had recovered from the shock of the robbery, found the courage to overpower the robber to prevent him escaping a second time.


 
This Is News?

Sinead O'Connor To Retire From Music

Thanks for the official notice. Ten years late.


 
Slanted Article?

Well, it is from The Guardian:

Children younger than 16 are being held as "enemy combatants" in the American detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, the US military admitted yesterday, a practice human rights groups condemned as repugnant and illegal.

Three boys aged between 13 and 15 are among about 660 inmates at the controversial camp, a US military official told the Guardian, on condition of anonymity. The official would not disclose their nationalities but said they had been brought from Afghanistan this year on suspicion of terrorism.


The main point here is the treatment of people in this age group. Back when I was growing up, kids in the thirteen to seventeen year old range were commonly referred to as teenagers, that transitional period between childhood and adulthood. Ask anyone in this age group if they're still a 'child' and you'll likely get a resounding NO.

The Left often makes this characterization as well as other distortions and inflated statistics in their ongoing propaganda war to bolster their argument when talking about gun violence. I often cruise the Mass. Turnpike and have to witness that large billboard near Fenway Park about how many 'children' are killed by guns every year. This is not a new technique. What isn't disclosed, or buried in the last paragraphs, is how many of these 'children' are in fact teenagers and that they'll even classify nineteen year olds as 'children', while also not disclosing that a lot of these 'children' are gang members. They're just betting that the hapless reader look no further than the sensationalist headline when reading the article.


 
Back To School

Another lecture / half-scolding by my very own Fisk Doll.

The three Rs of budget debate


Rote, Regurgitation, Rectum

By Joan Vennochi, 4/24/2003

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN the need for reform and the need for revenue, there must be room for reason. Earlier this year, Governor Mitt Romney submitted his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year. Yesterday, House leaders unveiled their proposal.


And they seemed pretty similar, in both focused exclusively on budget cuts and neither one focused on 'revenue enhancement' (that's code for a tax increase, by the way). I wonder if Joan has a problem with this?

For most people, the merits of each are difficult to sort out, and will likely stay that way. If you don't live under the Golden Dome -- and, maybe, even if you do -- the word to describe the overall state of the Commonwealth's fiscal affairs is confusing.


So leave it to that great business sage, Joan of Arc, to help us through this confusing, muddled mess.

There is relative agreement about a projected $2.5 billion to $3 billion gap between revenue and expenses. After that, the budget debate sinks quickly into a shrill and puzzling morass of charges, counter-charges, dire warnings, and worst-case scenarios.


Well, yeah, Joan. We need to close the gap. Cut to the chase, please.

In these difficult economic times, the Massachusetts budget is being debated at the extremes: the hacks versus the homeless. The gap between revenue and spending is due to waste, fraud, and mismanagement -- only it's not. Reduced state spending to close the gap will not hurt core government services -- unless it does.


Reduced state spending to close the gap will not hurt core government services -- unless it does. Did any of you understand that last sentence? Me neither. Obtuse as it is, we know where Joan is going with this.

Where is the plain-spoken statement of mission for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts? Where is the sound judgment, good sense, cool logic -- the reason?


Guess she wasn't listening to Romney's State of the state speech a few months ago.

How about these budget priorities for the upcoming fiscal year?

The last budget cut to be made is the one that hurts someone who is already disadvantaged.

Budget cuts that endanger people's lives, health or safety are absolutely prohibited.


Equally shrill predictions were made some months ago. Every morning I expect to walk the streets of Boston and imagine I'm in the Killing Fields of Cambodia. Sorry to disappoint, Joan, but it hasn't happened yet.

No budget cut should make a Massachusetts public school student less competitive with a public school student in any other state in the country.


Throwing more money at schools doesn't improve performance, either. Why not try a new approach offered by Romney - reform and accountability?

Budget cuts should eliminate as few jobs as possible. Payroll padding is one thing, but with unemployment on the rise, what's the point of putting people who really perform a needed service out of work?


Contrary to Globe editorialist's beliefs, I fail to see in the Massachusetts Constitution any mandate for state government to be a provider of jobs. If they perform a 'needed service', they're likely to stay. I always thought performing tax audits for the Commonwealth was 'perform(ing) a needed service' (after all, I was bringing in money), but this did not help me. 'Needed services', then, is in the eye of the beholder.

Cut everything you can outside those four categories


Which conveniently removes the overwhelming majority of possible budget cuts

Show your clients -- the taxpayers of Massachusetts -- that you have done so. Then, show them the options remaining within those four categories.


Uh, isn't that what the Legislature just did?

The business world demands transparency. Without it, a company balance sheet is murky. With it, the murkiness clears. The public sector needs transparency, too.


The real transparency here is Joan's justification for no spending cuts. She blithely asserts that all government jobs are a 'needed service', thus removing, in her mind, any need to consider 'work force realignment'.

The mud thrown during last fall's gubernatorial campaign is partly responsible for mucking up the true picture of state spending. People now see waste, fraud, and mismanagement in every corner of government, whether or not it actually exists.


If there's no such thing as fraud, waste, etc., then why does this office exist? Give me a break, Joan. I've worked in state government. I could point stuff out to you like you would not fucking believe.

But the public's overall confusion and cynicism is more deep-rooted than that. It comes from Beacon Hill's long tradition of hiding costs, tucking away budget items, and turning the state budget process into the opposite of transparent. That keeps taxpayers confused and suspicious.


Let's look at that middle sentence again - hiding costs, tucking away budget items, and turning the state budget process into the opposite of transparent. Doesn't this read like the very definition of fraud, waste and abuse? Joan commits the error of denying it while giving us the best working definition that it exists (outside of a blistering set of examples by Howie Carr, that is).

Reforming state bureacracy (sic) does not eliminate the need to spend money to cover priorities.


Translation - we need to spend more on government services in order to institute (money-saving) reforms. This is as circular an argument as I've seen from Joan in, oh, a week or so. I'd also think that her editors could do a better job at spotting typos, but I digress...

In the end, like it or not, a state budget, just like any budget, family or corporate, is about revenue. You can't spend what you don't have. But you can't prosper without some, hopefully wise, spending. Obviously, spending requires a reliable revenue flow.


No, Joan, is is NOT just 'about revenue', there's the expense part of the income statement which you steadfastly refuse to take an honest look at.

If a household budget based on two incomes loses one income, the family sits down, sets new priorities, and cuts spending to fit them. But the family can only cut so much. You can cut out vacations, but you still need to buy groceries.


Brilliant analysis, Joan. I bet there's a teaching position at the Harvard Business School just begging for someone of your deep, through and rational insight.

The same is true with a company. When revenues fall, a CEO can cut unprofitable divisions and lay off thousands of workers. A CEO can cut to survive, but at some point, the company must spend to grow.


That's the difference between a CEO and you, Joan. He or she is at least willing to consider cuts in expenses. You, on the other hand, all but removed expense reduction from the very first sentence of this article.

In a company, the CEO defines the core mission and leaves it to everyone else to carry out.


Not necessarily. It depends on the size of the company and the CEO's management style. So much for that HBS teaching position.

Government is different


It's not nearly as accountable as businesses are to their shareholders.

Not everyone gets behind the same mission or set of priorities. The executive branch has one agenda, the legislative branch has another. They can be close together, but right now in Massachusetts, they seem far apart.


Given that the former is headed by a Republican and the latter by Democrats, this is not exactly revealing a secret.

To date, Romney's agenda can be reduced to one phrase: No new taxes. It resonates with the public, although recent polls show people are starting to understand that spending priorities like those sketched out above require money from somewhere.


Maybe you missed out on Question 1, Joan? The one that almost eliminated the state income tax? The one that would have given you and most of your Morrissey Boulevard colleagues epileptic seizures?

At the same time, if state legislators reduce their agenda to ''no reform,'' taxpayers will resist all efforts to tap them as a source of any new revenue.

That's where reason comes in. It is needed from everyone in this budget debate.


Except from Joan "No New Cuts! Let's Raise Taxes!" Vennochi.

I wonder how Jay Fitzgerald and I can read the same article and come to different conclusions. Methinks he's just too nice to Joan.

Joan Vennochi's e-mail address is vennochi@globe.com.

This story ran on page A15 of the Boston Globe on 4/24/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


Wednesday, April 23, 2003
 
Jan Ullrich - First Win Of The Year

The oft-maligned cyclist, beset with knee problems, a DUI and a drug suspension last year, won his first race of the year after a week odd of racing. The editors of Pro Cycling magazine are rubbing their hands already:

If his form continues to improve over the next few months, what is already going to be a special Tour as the race celebrates its hundredth edition may become something extra special. Look out Lance…


As much as I'd like to see Lance win a race this year (he placed eighth place in the Amstel Gold race last week), such speculation is premature.


 
The Boston Globe Wants To Raise Your Taxes

...but doesn't have the balls to actually use those words.

A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL

NO ONE-SIDED BUDGET


There's the first clue...

4/23/2003

READERS OF the Massachusetts House are preparing to battle Governor Mitt Romney over the state's future with one hand tied behind their backs. The House Ways and Means budget, to be released today, proposes cuts in education, cuts in health care, cuts in aid to cities and towns -- but not a dollar of increased taxes. If the $3 billion budget gap is to be closed as fairly as possible, the House, and the state, need two-fisted fighters.


Romney's more or less proposing the same thing. This indicates that the two sides are more or less on the same page. Leave it to the Globe's editors to call for tax increases by invoking the 'fairness' euphemism, lest we cut services 'to the bone'.

Earlier this year, legislative leaders deferred to the new governor, expressing minimal some interest in his reorganization proposals. But the details have proved less efficient, even in theory, than advertised. Yet Romney still refuses to acknowledge the depth of the cuts he is proposing, insisting that most of the problem can be solved through reforms.


The problem here is the fact that Romney has to present his budget in its entirety, which gets a straight up-or-down vote. The trick for him is to get sufficient Democratic votes in the House and Senate, both of which are dominated by Democrats. Fat chance of that happening. The Globe also conveniently ignores $700 million in 'fee increases', another way of sugarcoating what's effectively a tax increase.

This has finally generated real frustration in the Legislature. ''The idea that he could save $2 billion in waste, fraud, and patronage -- what complete drivel,'' House Speaker Thomas Finneran said in an interview yesterday.


Yet Finneran said many constituents citizens, hearing Romney's sunny blandishments, doubt the severity of the problem, despite the dire descriptions of people like House Ways and Means Chairman John Rogers. ''Who are you going to believe,'' Finneran asked, ''the guy who's selling you castor oil or the guy who's selling you snake oil? Snake oil is winning.''


Sounds like Finneran & John Rogers need to present a united front, the latter of whom is in a better position to know the actual numbers.

Last year Finneran showed courage and vision in a months-long campaign to publicize the seriousness of the budget gap and to include a modest tax increase (most of it actually the freezing of the income tax rate that was due to go down) in the mix of solutions. This year he senses less receptivity.


Finneran's not stupid. He remembers what nearly happened last year.

Representative Ruth Balser of Newton, who will be pushing in debate for new tax revenues to close one-third of the budget gap, concedes she lacks majority support now. But, ''when the public sees how bad the cuts are, they'll be willing to vote for taxes,'' she said.


Ruth Balser has to be a) very, very stupid or b) a flaming liberal to make such an idiotic statement. I'll vote for c), both.

There are several options. Restoring the income tax rate from 5.3 percent to 5.6 percent -- still lower than during the 1990s -- would raise $450 million a year. Raising the sales tax from 5 to 6 percent, though less progressive, would generate $750 million.


A proposal of two tax increases, and one mention of the sales tax lacking the 'progressive' nature so desired by the Globe editors. In other words, Let's Soak The RichTM. Tough to do when many of the rich live in Newton, isn't it, Ms. Balser?

Each penny increase in the gas tax would raise $30 million. Increasing corporate taxes Closing corporate loopholes shows promise. Some fees can also be raised.


Now there are four proposed tax increases and a call to raise fees, presumably over and above what the Romney administration has proposed. For the sake of argument, let's say the Globe editors want to raise the gas tax five cents, and that closing these unnamed corporate 'loopholes' will raise (I'm lowballing this one) $200 million. I'll leave fee increases out of this calculation. By my math, this is a proposed tax increase of $1.55 billion dollars. That's half of the budget shortfall.

The House budget does propose raising some $600 million through a refinancing of state debt at lower interest rates. Finneran wisely proposes to avoid using this one-time money for ongoing programs, but it still could provide some relief.


Well, why wouldn't you want to do that? Why not also consider the savings in interest in the out years, until these bonds reach maturity and are redeemed? Who's holding those bonds, I wonder?

All choices need to be considered. When faced with removing people's health care, closing libraries, and retreating from the great education reform initiative of the 1990s, the Legislature needs to fight with all its heart, and both hands.


When Romney ran on a platform of 'No New Taxes', the choices involving tax increases do not need to be considered, until that time arrives that the Legislature refuses to move on his budget and force Romney down that path. That would guarantee that the above referenced Question 1 (eliminating the Massachusetts income tax) will arrive on the ballot again next year.

This story ran on page A18 of the Boston Globe on 4/23/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


 
Senator Skinflint, Man Of The People

Kerry may make GOP wealth a campaign issue


As he straddles the fence again on whether to dip into his wife's $600 million fortune...

Democrat contender says he won't rule out using his wife's own funds

By Glen Johnson, Globe Staff, 4/23/2003

If Republicans forge ahead with plans to spend $200 million or more on President Bush's reelection campaign, Senator John F. Kerry would make it a campaign issue and would not rule out tapping his personal wealth to compensate, he said yesterday.


Don't flatter yourself, Frenchie Senator. They're not spending the whole $200 million on you.

The Democratic presidential contender, who recently reported $8 million cash on hand in his campaign kitty, said that if the Republicans double the amount they spent on their 2000 campaign, it would confirm the party as the handmaiden to the wealthiest Americans.


"I have to get by on only $8 million!"

''I believe the Republican Party has already proven that it is prepared to bargain off, auction off, use the political process to service their special interests,'' the Massachusetts senator said after an Earth Day speech at the Vine Street Community Center in Roxbury.


Let's see who supports the DemocRATS: labor unions, trial lawyers, teacher's unions, public sector hacks and sundry groups of the hard Left. Nope, no special interests here.

''If they want to spend $200 million from their very wealthy and specialized interests, I think that would become a major issue about the kind of government we have in this country and where we're going.''


"I'm simply jealous, just being wealthy and not very wealthy..."

While Kerry's personal wealth is limited, his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, has a family fortune that has been assessed as worth $550 million or more. Federal election law makes it unlikely she could transfer the bulk of that money to Kerry, but in the past, both he and his wife have said they would consider tapping the reserve if either one was attacked personally in a campaign.


Kind of hard to play the class warfare card now, isn't it?

Oh, and didn't you swear off use of said funds last month?

As recently as last month, Kerry restated his interest in financing his own campaign. Asked yesterday whether he might give more consideration to that idea in light of a report about the Bush administration's reelection plans, the senator said haltingly: ''I'm going to, as I've said all along, I'm going to reserve, I don't have any special plans right now.''


I believe this is the first time I can actually agree with Kerry about straddling an issue, although I have little doubt he'll eventually tap his wife's accounts.

The New York Times reported yesterday that Bush advisers are quietly preparing the president's reelection campaign. In line with other recent reports, the newspaper said the effort would be spearheaded by the president's top political adviser, senior counselor Karl Rove, and financed with $200 million or more in campaign donations.


Tough to keep $200 million in planned spending quiet for long.

Such a figure would double the $100 million Bush spent winning the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, and Kerry said yesterday he believed even the $200 million goal would be exceeded. Both the Republican and Democratic nominees are slated to get $75 million apiece from the federal treasury to finance their general election campaigns after they are formally nominated at their party conventions during the summer of 2004.


No wonder most Democrats voted for Mccain-Feingold.

Quoting unnamed advisers, the Times said the Bush campaign considers Kerry the most likely to win the Democratic nomination from the current field of nine candidates. The Bush team also believes Kerry is vulnerable because of his Northeastern roots and patrician air.


The latter belief is why I think the former belief is wrong.

''He looks French,'' the newspaper quoted one adviser as saying, without elaboration.


Cheap shots before the election, or is it?

Kerry said he laughed when he read the comment, adding: ''It means that the White House has started the personal politics of destruction, that's what it means, but it's fine.


I think you started that a while back, Senator.

His wife, a former Republican, was less charitable, saying: ''It's like kids on a playground, and they don't know what to say because they don't have the thought process defined or the language. They call each other names; they know how to say those. But adults should explain what they mean.''


If you have to explain a joke, Theresa, then you probably don't get it.

Asked whether she thought the comment impugned her husband's masculinity or patriotism, since France opposed the war effort in Iraq, Heinz Kerry said: ''They can't take him on on patriotism; that they can't do. And I guess if they want to call the French `not manly,' I don't know, but they have to deal with the French on that.''


They'll take him on his fake patriotism, Heinz Kerry, do not doubt that for a second.

Kerry's speech was preceded by a roundtable discussion in which 14 Roxbury residents and race hustlers area political activists discussed a variety of health problems they attributed to the concentration of pollution sources in their neighborhood. Klare Allen of Roxbury held up a map showing that eight of the city's nine trash-transfer stations are in the neighborhood. Many of the parents and some of the children in the group complained of asthma.


Maybe all those poorly tuned-up diesel buses has something to do with it? Do a lot of parents in Roxbury smoke cigarettes in the house? Did any of the race hustlers area political activists actually conduct some sort of study or analysis to try to pinpoint the cause of asthma, or just lazily resort to 'blame Whitey'?

''Until I went to Washington, I had never had asthma in my life,'' Kerry said in response. He said pollution in the city has prompted him to use an inhaler like those used by some of Roxbury residents.


Does living in big cities cause asthma (car exhaust, etc.), as Kerry implies?

In an interview afterward, Kerry clarified his remark by explaining that he used an Albuterol inhaler for common springtime allergies, but his condition is not serious enough to limit his physical activity. ''I rarely use it; I haven't used it in months,'' he said.


So he has springtime allergies, even though it's spring now and he hasn't used his inhaler for months. Or is it that he didn't have springtime allergies until he moved to Washington? If it's the latter, he's lying through his teeth. I developed my hayfever (fall allergies) around age fifteen, which the doctor explained is a normal process for people who develop allergies. It was 1996 or 1997 that the springtime pollen counts were so bad I had sneezing fits then, which made the fall exposure seem pleasant by comparison. This means Kerry should have had this springtime allergy for about thirty years now. This is typical of Kerry to tell one audience one thing and another audience something else about the same subject. God damn, what a fuckin' hypocrite.

Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com.

This story ran on page A3 of the Boston Globe on 4/23/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.



 
Separated At Birth?

Someone in the White House thinks Senator Kerry (D - MA) looks French. I've uncovered further visual proof:





Judge for yourself.


 
Cheese Eating Surrender Cyclist

Laurent Brochard of the French AG2R team, won Paris-Camembert yesterday. Check out first prize.

You know he'll be sharing this with his teammates...


Tuesday, April 22, 2003
 
The Prince Of Pessimism

Globe hack columnist James Carroll once again opens his mouth and inserts his foot.

A nation lost


Jeezus, not another Vietnam comparison...

By James Carroll, 4/22/2003

EVEN BEFORE conclusions can be drawn about the war in Iraq (Saddam? Weapons of mass destruction? Iraqi stability? Cost to civilians? Syria?) a home front consensus is jelling around a radical revision of America's meaning in the world.


Here's one irrefutable conclusion, Jim - the United States won the war (with greatly appreciated help from the British and Australians).

Centered on coercive unilateralism, the new doctrine assumes that the United States not only stands apart from other countries but above them. The primitive tribalism of boys at football games -- ''We're number one!'' -- has been transformed into an axiom of strategy. Military force has replaced democratic idealism as the main source of US influence.


Democratic idealism, which worked so well under the Clinton administration, emasculating both our military and our prestige at the same time. Great piece of work.

Formerly conceived of as essentially defensive, US armed services are now unapologetically on the offense. Aggression is prevention. Diplomacy is reduced to making the case for impending war and then putting the best face on war's denouement. The aim of all this is not world dominance but world order. That world order in the new age requires American dominance is an unintended consequence of America's power-altruism. That ''We're number one'' makes the world safe for everybody -- if only they accept it.


Carrol asserts that we're not bent on 'world dominance' but then says in the very next breath that this new age 'requires American dominance' - is it me or is this disjointed?

This new vision is clear, its advocates are powerful, and with Iraq its main blocks are in place, with obvious implications for countries as geographically dispersed as Iran and North Korea. What are the elements of an alternative vision? In a world traumatized by terrorist threat, weapons proliferation, and the sensationalism of Fox and CNN, disruption is infinitely magnified.


It seems to me that Iran, which borders Iraq, isn't really 'geographically dispersed', but 'conveniently located', if Iran picks up on the hint.

When such horror strikes, whether from twin towers collapsing or twin snipers shooting strangers, can human beings put faith in something other than overwhelming force?


Doubtful. Diplomacy at the United Nations worked so well, didn't it? A good scolding would not have prevented the D.C. sniper murders, either. Like I have to mention it...

What strategies should critics of the new US doctrine of coercive unilateralism employ in opposing it? Learning from the past, I think of several:

Don't cede the language of morality to the right wing. Manichaean bipolarity oversimplifies good and evil, banalizing both. Still, some things should be done because they are right or opposed because they are wrong.


'Some things', like defeating the banally evil Saddam Hussein, perhaps? It's tough on Carrol's superior sensibilities when the slack-jawed yokels infesting Bush's cabinet keep getting things right.

Critics of the intended new Pax Americana should not hesitate to say that long-agreed ethical principles are being violated. It is wrong to break treaties, as the United States is doing in its treatment of POWs in Cuba.


Name that treaty, Jim. Matter of fact, can you show me the POW's in Guantanamo? That's right - there aren't any, because they're all classified as enemy combatants, since they didn't wear uniforms nor were they aligned with a recognized government. This would also apply to Iraqi 'irrregulars' or the vaunted Fedayeen Saddam who may soon be taking a tropical vacation near Castro's island paradise.

It is wrong to wage aggressive war


...as opposed to a passive, flower-throwing war?

"What do we use now, harsh language?"

as the United States now openly does. To make decisions for or against such policies on supposedly pragmatic grounds is to break the crucial link between means and ends, as if an outcome (''regime change'') can justify whatever was done to accomplish it. In the long run, the only truly pragmatic act is the moral act.


Which Jim doesn't bother to define, all the better for him to wrap himself up in this 'morality' he constantly invokes.

Be skeptical of ''homeland security.'' The American tradition prefers the risks associated with liberty to the risks associated with bureaucratic control. The new homeland security state threatens the kind of excess that came with the national security state after World War II. It was the National Security Act of 1947, after all, that laid the groundwork for the univocal bureaucratizing of government based in the Pentagon that marginalized debate and eliminated the natural checks of multiple power centers.


Tough to argue with that one. I think that 'homeland security' is something best implemented at the state & local levels.

''National security,'' defined by anti-Communist paranoia at home and abroad, was false security. ''Homeland security'' promises to be a paranoid reprise.


'Anti-Communist paranoia'? Has Carroll's head been up Lenin's ass the past fifty years or something?

Be suspicious of foreign policy based on ''worst case'' thinking. During the Cold War, the United States made fearful assessments of Soviet capabilities and intentions that turned out to be entirely false -- assessments that shaped policy. Low-level intelligence estimates regularly reported mere possibilities of hostile threat, which, reported up the chain of command, were transformed into certain facts. Thus, Soviet troop strength was wildly overestimated in the beginning of the era; Soviet missile strength was overestimated in the middle; Soviet political strength was overestimated at the end. The result was a US-driven nuclear arms race, the effects of which still threaten the world.


Uh, Jim, the 'US-driven nuclear arms race' didn't start in earnest until the Soviet Union built their first atomic weapon. It would be more accurate to say the US responded to this Soviet threat by building all those nasty bombs.

The worst case for the Soviet Union existed only in Washington's fantasy. And now it seems that the Saddam worst case resides in the same place. A nation that is so driven by fear will always find things to be afraid of. That nation's gravest threat arises, of course, from what it then does to defend itself.


I suppose the benefit of hindsight allows morons like James Carrol to write complete garbage like this. It had nothing to do with quotes from Khruschchev like 'We will bury you' or the Soviet bent for world domination? Nope, we didn't have anything to fear, not even fear itself.

Beware of war as an organizing principle of society. It should be a source of alarm, not pride, that the United States is drawing such cohesive sustenance from the war in Iraq.


'Beware of war as an organizing principle of society.' Care to tell that to Kim Jong Il, Mr. 'Sea of Fire'?

Photographic celebrations of our young warriors, glorifications of released American prisoners, heroic rituals of the war dead all take on the character of crass exploitation of the men and women in uniform.


You mean like this crass exploitation of the (men and) women in uniform?

First they volunteered for military service were forced into a dubious circumstance, and now they are themselves being mythologized as its main post-facto justification -- as if the United States went to Iraq not to seize Saddam (disappeared), or to dispose of weapons of mass destruction (missing) hidden in Syria, or to save the Iraqi people (chaos), but ''to support the troops.'' War thus becomes its own justification. Such confusion on this grave point, as on the others, signifies a nation lost.


The only thing that's lost is the connection between this column and reality.

James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.

This story ran on page A15 of the Boston Globe on 4/22/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.




 
What Monty Python Character Are You?

I don't believe this result:


French Guard
I'm French! Why do think I have this outrageous
accent, you silly king-a?!


What Monty Python Character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Well, at least I'm the John Cleese character. That counts for something, right?


 
Idiots

The folks at PETA are only too happy to inflict their perverted brand of moral superiority on the town of Hamburg, New York:

HAMBURG, N.Y. (AP) A national animal rights group has offered Hamburg officials $15,000 to change the town's name to Veggieburg.


You mean there's more of them?

''The town's name conjures up visions of unhealthy patties of ground-up dead cows,'' said Joe Haptas, spokesman of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), in a letter faxed Monday to Hamburg Supervisor Patrick Hoak.


That's what a hamburger is, Einstein. I suppose asking Hamburg, Germany to do the same thing is now out of the question?

PETA offered to supply area schools with $15,000 worth of non-meat patties for the name change.

''Our offer is (sic) serious as a heart attack,'' Haptas said.


They say a lack of protein impairs your ability to construct complete sentences.

Hoak immediately declined.

''With all due respect, I think it's a delicacy in our community,'' he said about hamburgers. ''We're proud of our name and proud of our heritage.''


That's diplospeak for 'Fuck off'.

The Buffalo suburb, named Hamburg since 1812, claims to be the birth place of the American culinary staple. Hamburg commemorates the birth of hamburgers at the annual Burgerfest.


Why not ask Buffalo (Duff's Wings, etc.) to change its name, or will that bribe cost too much?

In 1996, PETA proposed that the Hudson Valley town of Fishkill change its centuries-old name to Fishsave, since the group believed the name conjured up violent imagery of dead fish.

The town was named by Dutch settlers in the early 1600s. ''Kill'' is the Dutch word for ''stream.''


They also say a lack of protein impairs your ability to retain historical facts, which the PETA folks don't seem very interested in anyway. Wankers.



 
War On the Cheap

The war with Iraq will pretty much pay for itself if we keep making these discoveries.


 
Breakin' The Law

The Volokh Conspiracy has a good article on the legal ramifications of Fisking. And no, Robert "Hit Me Again" Fisk is not due any royalties!


Monday, April 21, 2003
 
You're Gonna Burn

...in hell, George Galloway.


 
Breakin' The Law

The Volokh Conspiracy has a good article on the legal ramifications of Fisking. And no, Robert "Hit Me Again" Fisk is not due any royalties!


 
Straining Credibility

There will be a circus nine person debate happening amongst the Democratic aspirants on May 3rd, including one 'candidate' who's claiming he's not really a candidate, which would force him to reveal his finances. Of course, since he's a professional race agitator a person of color, this will exempt him from criticism, at least from the mainstream press. I hope one of them (Helen Thomas?) has the balls to call him on this or have him excluded him from any debates until he complies with the law. I'm continually amazed at how much Al Sharpton gets away with.

Fat chance.


Friday, April 18, 2003
 
Witchy Woman

Tim Blair notes that witchcraft will soon be decriminalized in Victoria, Australia. An ex-girlfriend of mine may wish to consider a change in venue.


Thursday, April 17, 2003
 
Quit While You're Ahead

There should be somebody advising Hootie Johnson when to shut his fucking mouth:

"There never will be a female member, six months after the Masters, a year, 10 years, or ever," he said, backing up what he had said at his annual news conference Wednesday. "If I drop dead right now, our position will not change on this issue," he said then. "It's not my issue alone."


A more astute person would have said something, well, different: mouth a few platitudes about the First Amendment and freedom of assembly, acknowledge her protest's failure, cite the hometown that was solidly behind you, then shut the fuck up.

Hootie put just enough gas for this issue to keep burning. Wait a short time for the New York Times to wax indignant at his impolite commentary. Although I agree with his position 100 percent, I'm wagering that little rant comes back to bite the old buzzard on his wrinkled ass.

If there is one change the working press would make, it would choose armbands for those reporters who prefer to follow the action inside the ropes. However, considering the fact that it is Augusta National, and that the club has certain standards maintained for all its guests, most of us defend its right to continue those standards.

Thus, if Mme. Burk wishes to continue her campaign, let her be warned that she is running against a stonewall defense by Augusta National.


Guys? You don't understand. Howell Raines The New York Times will not let this die after a comment like that. They are like the Terminator. That's all they do! They simply will not stop until you are DEAD!!


 
Buried In Boston

The art of whining and complaining has reached a new low.

Parents' objections scuttle fourth-grade MCAS re-test

by Kevin Rothstein
Thursday, April 17, 2003

Boston fourth-graders will no longer be forced to retake a portion of the MCAS after parents swamped the district with complaints yesterday, officials said.


What was it? Difficult test? Unclear instructions?

``Essentially, we took a good amount of phone calls from parents who didn't want their kids to go through the essay again,'' said Boston Public Schools spokesman Jonathan Palumbo.


That must have been one tough essay. Traumatic, if the parents had to get involved.

Yesterday's shift follows news stories about the fourth-grade writing test being given again to kids. Students were asked to write about a snow day they remembered, prompting complaints that 9- and 10-year-olds might not remember a day off if their school hadn't had one.


We live in New England, for Christ's sake, and we had one storm that dumped over two feet of snow across the entire state. Are these people shitting us?

Parents in Boston can now choose whether their children will take the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System re-test. The last exam will be counted.


How about an essay about overweening parents? There should be plenty of material.

The state Department of Education has heard so far from a ``handful'' of schools that plan to offer the re-test, said spokeswoman Heidi Perlman, who defended the question.


One tiny voice for common sense drowned out by lots and lots of Massholes. Be thankful for remedial education, whiners; your children will need it.


Wednesday, April 16, 2003
 
Lance Armstrong Update

Lance and Kristin Armstrong are having a go at reconciliation.


 
What A Difference A Week Makes

From quagmire to anarchy to freedom in one week? That's what successful American Prospect entrepreneur Robert Kuttner's wants.

Redefining 'democracy' as disorder

By Robert Kuttner, 4/16/2003


''FREEDOM'S untidy,'' Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld airily explained, referring to the anarchy and looting in Baghdad, which closed all but one hospital, sacked one of the world's most treasured archeological museums, and plundered the homes and shops of ordinary Iraqis. Untidy?


Perhaps "The transition to freedom's untidy" would be a better phrase to use. The looting of that museum, Bob, seems to be an inside job. Of course, you may have had time to do some actual research instead of trying to score cheap political points.

Untidy is when your 15-year-old leaves his room a mess. Untidy is letting the dinner dishes stack up in the sink.


Untidy describes the effort that went into this column...

Rumsfeld added that ''free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes.'' By way of further clarification, retired lieutenant general Jay Garner, Bush's newly appointed American viceroy in Baghdad, told a New York Times reporter, ''I don't think they had a love-in when they had Philadephia.''

Garner was referring to the American Constitutional Convention.


Which was a contentious event, Bob. Since you're old enough to have been there, why don't you give us an eyewitness account?

What these people understand about freedom could fit in a thimble. If they are democracy's emissaries, God help us all.


What Bob understands about what just happened in Iraq could fit on the head of a pin and still have room for the dancing angels.

You may recall that the whole point of the Constitutional Convention was to reconcile liberty with order, and the will of the majority with the rights of minorities. The founders of American democracy wanted ordinary people to be able to pursue happiness, secure in their homes, free from Don Rumsfeld's definition of untidiness (anarchy, looting) or Jay Garner's concept of freedom (optional lawlessness). Obviously, in the aftermath of an invasion one can't expect the usual niceties of civility. But that's all the more reason why the chaos in Baghdad should have been anticipated.


Is Bob disappointed that Iraq isn't functioning like, oh, Sweden, one freaking week after we beat Hussein's vaunted / Elite Republican Guard?

Bush and his critics both agreed that Saddam Hussein was a monstrous dictator. It was certainly predictable that once he was toppled, a lot of anger would be vented. Yet it didn't seem to occur to Rumsfeld to think concretely about the morning after.


I know that Robert Kuttner is not one of those columnists that recently called Saddam Hussein a monster as that would detract from his Bush BashingTM.

It's ironic that the war planners took some care to limit civilian casualties but overlooked the damage that Iraqis, once liberated from Saddam, might wreak on each other. The past week's pillaging has been an awful brew of vengeance, opportunism, and just plain rage. It has indiscriminately harmed not just the trophy mansions of Saddam's henchmen but vaccines for children, ruined when hospital refrigerators were stolen, and Iraq's priceless, ancient patrimony, which had miraculously survived countless earlier wars.


Thirty years of Ba'athist rule and Bob expects Iraqis to behave like proper Brits. Notice that UN, German and French buildings (embassies & so forth) were targeted for looting. This is called payback, Bobby. The Iraqi looters were targeting those countries that supported their continual oppression by Saddam Hussein by trashing their buildings and stealing gold toilets. The US Army and Marines are still busy dealing with people that shoot at them to worry a lot about the aforementioned looting. How much looting and pillaging did the the Iraqis do in Kuwait as they withdrew in the first Guld War? Besides, since Bob's column went to print, the looting is pretty much over by now, having lasted about five or six days.

Rumsfeld's war-on-the-cheap included barely enough US troops to mount the invasion, guard supply lines, and mop up the remnants of Saddam's loyalists. After a month of lightning attacks, these troops are exhausted. But no coherent plan was made to put a constabulary force into the streets of Baghdad to keep civil order while the slow task of constructing a successor government unfolded.


I guess you can't please everybody. Beating Iraq in only 27 days was a quagmire to Bob last week, this week he bitches about 'war on the cheap', taking his cue from neo-liberal Nancy Pelosi about how much it's going to cost, etc. Well, right now the tab's about $20 billion, which I'll bet is not the smallest price tag for a federal program that either one of them has ever endorsed. Bob probably conveniently ignored missed the report of 2,000 Iraqi policemen that will do the patrolling of Baghdad very soon, which fits in well with the idea of self-government.

So desperate were the US forces after a week of looting and anarchy that they have been reduced to hiring members of Saddam's police force to keep order. Some 2,000 of the previous regime's hated police are already patrolling Baghdad's streets in their old uniforms.


Maybe that was part of the plan, Bob? Too few forces = 'stretched too thin', 'quagmire', etc. Too many = we're an 'imperialistic, occupying force' bent on dominating the Arab World.

I can't find the link now, but I read elsewhere that the Ba'athists were in large part responsible for taking these cops off the streets in the first place, since their loyalty to Saddam was questionable. Thus, it makes sense to bring them back, and filter out any potential Ba'athists in the process. It also makes me question Bob's assertion that these guys were 'hated'. Probably by the Ba'athists, but not the general population.

Imagine what signal that sends to ordinary, anti-Saddam Iraqis. Evidently it was Saddam's foreign policy that President Bush loathed, not Saddam's repression of citizens. Bush has compared Saddam to Hitler, but we didn't turn over the policing of postwar Berlin to the Gestapo. So much for winning hearts and minds.


You lost me there, Bob. How are Iraqi police and Saddam's foreign policy connected again?

We are paying one more price for Bush's reckless decision to go it alone


'Go it alone' = Kuttnerese for working with Britian, Australia, Poland, Albania, Romania, etc...

If the UN had been involved,


...we'd still be doing inspections, which means we wouldn't even be having these conversations, now would we?

it is inconceivable that the need for civil order in the aftermath of Saddam's ouster would have been overlooked. Precisely because it included people from other nations, who evidently have more empathy for the suffering of foreigners than Bush has, a UN operation would have imagined the aftermath from the perspective of ordinary Iraqis. It would have put the humanitarian mission on an equal footing with the military one. A UN constabulary force could also have included some Arabic-speaking police.


That explains why the UN buildings were targeted for looting, right?

Whatever gratitude Iraqis have for America's toppling their tyrant is being rapidly squandered by the Bush administration's disregard for Iraqi citizens. Actions speak louder than words. The administration can profess its desire for Iraqis to enjoy the blessings of liberty, but its failure to plan for civil order leads the average Iraqi to suspect that its true priorities are geopolitics and oil.


Not that old 'Ooooiiilll' saw again...

All the wanton, preventable destruction adds not just to the suffering of Iraqis but to the bill that will be paid by American taxpayers -- a bill that translates into profits to be reaped by private contractors like Halliburton, who stand to clean up in more ways than one.


But didn't Cheney sell all of his Halliburton shares?

As for Rumsfeld and Garner, some remedial instruction is in basic civics is in order. The sooner this crowd is replaced by people, foreign and domestic, who grasp how democracy really works, the better.


So vote for John 'Regime Change' Kerry early and often!

Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect. His column appears regularly in the Glob

This story ran on page A19 of the Boston Globe on 4/16/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.